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India vs Sri Lanka: Challenge for Virat Kohli-led side will come from within

Playing against a Sri Lanka side that is going through a transition phase, the Virat Kohli-led Indian cricket team will face the challenge of continuing the momentum from the last home Test season

india vs sri lanka 2017 Updated: Jul 25, 2017 17:14 IST
India vs Sri Lanka,IND v SL,India vs Sri Lanka 2017
India will face Sri Lanka in the first of the three-Test series starting from Wednesday.(AP)

Coming after an outstanding home season, which they finished off with a searing series against Australia, the challenge for India might be to produce similar intensity against Sri Lanka, especially when the opposition is in the midst of a mediocre run.

This Sri Lanka side is going through a transition phase and is unrecognisable from a few years back when Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Sanath Jayasuriya and Muttiah Muralitharan stared back at the opposition. The bowling line-up is heavily dependent on senior left-arm spinner Rangana Herath and their batting is further depleted due to the absence of captain Dinesh Chandimal.

India skipper Virat Kohli, however, said they will not be taking the home team lightly and will instead be focussing on their own performances.

“For us, we are playing a game of cricket. It doesn’t matter which opposition we are playing against. It’s all about identifying the players they have, their strengths and areas of weakness and focussing really on our performances and what we can do as a team.

READ | Virat Kohli-Rangana Herath clash key in India vs Sri Lanka series

“The moment you start focussing on the opposition and try to adjust your intensity according to who you are playing against, then that’s a very dangerous thing to do because if you don’t respect the game, it will sort you out and expose you.

“We totally respect the game, we totally know how hard we need to work to win every Test. Every situation, session and ball is an event for us. So, we are willing to put in the hard yards.”

Kohli said this quality was part of the team’s culture built up, starting in Galle under Kohli in 2015. The fightback in that series after going 1-0 down in Galle seemed to act as the launchpad for the successful phase which has seen India rise to No 1.

“It’s pretty different sitting here two years after that particular series because that it was very important in us coming together as a team, believing we can win series and not just matches. We were able to build on that mindset in the last couple of years, training a certain way, thinking about the game a certain way, playing together as a team a certain way. We have built a really good base as a team to be able to do that consistently over the next few years.

READ | Hashan Tillakaratne appointed temporary batting coach for Sri Lanka cricket team

“We don’t see any series as a launchpad for anything, it is about consistent cricket wherever we play and try to string in those performances because of which we are at the top of the rankings right now.”

As for the heartbreaking defeat in Galle in 2015, Kohli said the lesson from the defeat was realising the importance of an all-rounder for the balance of the side. As a result, the team think tank is considering blooding Hardik Pandya.

“It is very important (to have bowling options). (But) you also need to understand, last time we felt in the first Test we played here we probably were a batsman short and the fifth bowler didn’t do much in the game. We have those options open as well.

“We have great balance in the side. We’ve got a guy like Hardik, who is a wicket-taker. He has a great chance of playing as well. That gives us balance. In the next two games on that tour we played an all-rounder and that made all the difference.”

First Published: Jul 25, 2017 17:04 IST